"We screwed up," said Jeff, an industry vet. "We royally screwed up. I mean, it wasn't but 15 years ago," he continued, "that agencies were sitting on easy street. They were taking fees and recognizing commission on large ad budgets." While 15 years only slightly predates me, I still remember the outward expression of all that money; at my first agency gig the President of our local office would show up every so often in his racecar-red Ferrari convertible. Nowadays, your lucky if the local agency lead has enough cash to buy one Mercedes, let alone a Ferrari as a second car.So why, how did we get into this mess, what was the 'royal' mistake? Is it true that the Internet has broken our business model, like it has many others, to the degree to which we won't be able to resurrect? Or did we make such poor compromises that we have done our own disservice? Have we focused so intently on a shinning star that we lost our way?We have helped businesses resurrect themselves time after time, we have helped steer wandering ships. We have helped clients focus on the one thing that matters: The Audience. But, "we failed miserably in one, very critical way, " Jeff would explain, "and I'll bet we have all given this advice one-hundred times over: WE DIDN'T PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACHED!"Jeff put it very succinctly, "We forgot to listen to our clients, and find the insight that would drive our own business?" Excuse me? How could an industry so focused on how people think, act, and what motivates them not listen to their clients, it's the one thing we sermonize! Jeff went on "Instead, we focused on awards, recognition, and entertainment."These are ads, people; it isn't Hollywood."What clients needed, wanted and coveted, was better understanding of their audiences, better understanding of their use of technology, and how that impacted their brands association and affiliation. Instead we focused on the :30 ad, fighting for every creative budget we could and offering the Media team a cool 15 minutes to present their plan. A plan steeped in thought, analysis, and insight that you could see the months of blood sweat and tears oozing from the presentation." Jeff then threw in the humdinger, "and, we priced it all in a way that expressed how unimportant media was in our eyes, we all but gave it away."Why not right, media is so unsexy, how could an agency truly stand apart by focusing on the expertise of media? That value is abstract, but a real funny :30 ad wins the account everyday. Jeff's rebuttal: "No doubt, that's correct, but we failed not in how we win business, but in how we staffed and charged for services. We got caught up in our own hoopla, deciding that creative services were the future, and that media would be commoditized by technology." Now some 15 years later, we find that Media is increasingly more important and that creative services are largely being commoditized (see XLNT Ads and any publisher with a large enough media budget behind you).I had to think about this concept a bit, as I know it to be true; I never took that approach to thinking about our issues. And certainly when you think about the time, effort and training that goes into a media planner being an expert in his craft, it does make sense. Not to sound callous and over simplify, but what the Internet has done has shown that people with a video camera and some basic technical knowhow can be funny, entertaining and clever, without any formal training. But I challenge those same people to identify their target audience and market to them in an efficient manner. I am not understating the value of good content, but when 80% (made up number based solely on perception) of the ads today do not pass the consumer sniff-test for entertaining, it is hard to argue that the real value actually comes from a group of experts guiding that content to the right sets of people.As media continues to fragment and audiences continue to jump between vehicles, the planner is becoming increasingly more important in helping navigate the media waters to find the hyper-segments that the brands so covet. However, we cannot continue to price these engagements to win the account, we need to price these engagements to sustain ourselves and create a business. Leveraging insights from a vast amount of data is becoming increasingly important; this is a valuable service, not a commoditized one, now charge for it.Chris Arens is a Partner and Head of Client Services at Catalyst S+F. He can be reached at email@example.comRead all Chris' MediaBizBloggers commentaries at The Marketing Capital Report - MediaBizBloggers.Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.comFollow our Twitter updates @MediaBizBlogger.